The Huntington Lady Raiders became large and in charge of the District 1-4A race Friday night out-hustling and out-playing the Minden Lady Tide in the Raiders’ gym.
Minden, the state’s No. 5 team in the LHSAA power ratings, appeared intimidated by the No. 14 Lady Raiders from the outset and never displayed the pluckiness they had shown in previous contests this winter.
Winning 59-39, Huntington is now in control of its own destiny in district with two weeks to play.
And it was Huntington (15-5, 6-0) that appeared to be a Top 10 Class 4A team deploying an inside-out attack that the Lady Tide had no answer for.
“We did a little research on the No. 5 team in the state to see what they liked to do and then did our best to take it away,” Huntington coach Danielle Butler said. “We try to run teams and we have the conditioning to get up and down the court.”
You’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy the offense and defense the Lady Raiders deployed on Minden (21-3, 5-1). Once the opening tip went up, it was all about what Huntington wanted to do.
Taylor Bell, who dropped in a game-high 19 points, led the points-in-the-paint barrage that was accented by Jasmyne Dawson’s 13 markers on turnaround jumpers.
“My cousin, De’Asia (Dixon), gave us a motivational speech about how if we get down don’t put your head down because we’re still in a fight,” Bell said. “They wouldn’t get back on D, so we just kept running’em.”
Minden coach Jaccob Brown wasn’t happy with the way his team played from the outset and kept fruitlessly exhorting them onward.
“We never seemed to get into the flow of the game,” Brown said. “Early on and really for the entire game we settled for outside shots so we were not aggressive on offensive end. We typically shoot better from outside.”
With Dixon (13 points) and My’Kalah Johnson (10 points) scoring on dribble drives, Minden wasn’t able to concentrate on shutting down Bell and Dawson inside.
“We gave up to many second-chance points, didn’t make shots and didn’t get back on defense,” Brown said. “Allowing second-chance opportunities was a problem no matter what defense we played. When you combine all those together it makes it tough to win. I thought Huntington came ready to play.”
Even though the Lady Tiders converted just one field goal in the first quarter, they trailed only 13-8 at the end of the frame with Straw Batton scoring all 8 of the points.
Minden scored three points to open the second quarter to get within 13-11, but the hosts put together a 9-3 run to get some cushion and led 25-18 at the break. Huntington got the advantage up to double digits (29-18) on a Dixon layup off a turnover just a couple minutes into the second half and it never got any closer.
“Minden not shooting well from the outside certainly helped,” Butler said. “We saw on one tape one of their girls made five threes.”
The Lady Raiders are a long way from wrapping up the district race, but Friday’s game was a major step.
“We’re not even paying attention to the district standings, because on a given night, anything can happen in this district,” Butler said. “We have four games left and we’re taking them a game at a time.”